Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021
There’s a lovely verse in Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 track – it has headed my personal hit parade for more than four decades – and it seems apt, almost totemic, as a way of describing life as I am living it these days:
He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about ev’rything
There’s some artistic licence in there. Unless you’re an American, a nightstand is better known as a bedside table. They look lonely, or at best asymmetric, unless accompanied by a twin. But I jest. Rafferty was crooning about opportunistic sexual encounters. In my case, these have been overwhelmingly more gossipy fiction than biographical fact, though I concede that the fiction, and the gossipers, gave me some anxious moments back in the day.
But just to note: There’s no way I’m giving up the booze, even though I apparently unknowingly angered a black cat back in 2014, fell into the hands of the surgical community, and haven’t been able to touch whisky since. Do I hear you intone, “bummer!”? I’ll have a double, thanks.
Nonetheless, time has moved on and we’ve bought some land (it had a very nice house on it when we did) and we’re trying to settle down in a quiet little town. That town is formally a city, in the Australian fashion. In other words, it is far from being a metropolis. It has a population of around 35,000 people and 35,000,000 gum trees. It’s very quiet, unless there’s a breeze blowing.
We’ve now been here for more than eighteen months, having abandoned our decade and a half of Fifo life Bali in April 2020. I’m trying very hard not to forget about everything. I’m implacably opposed to the modern fashion for deciding that the past is dead and that it therefore has no utility. Historians everywhere would agree with me.
Also, after a long career as a scribbler, I’m not going to forget the things I’ve written about, or suddenly decide that I am no longer interested in them. Neither, wearing my other hat, shall I forget what I did to whom, or why, during a decade in which I politically advised people, although I still wonder how I talked myself into that walk of life.
At the end of next month, I shall be seventy-seven. This is incomprehensible. I remember clearly how, at seventeen, which though sixty years ago still seems like yesterday, I chiefly thought only two things about old guys who were seventy-seven:
One, I’ll never make it. And two, how on earth did they?
I now know the answer to the second question: A combination of luck and (often borrowed) good judgment, with a sizeable preponderance of the former.